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Finding my voice in the DOC

Let's be totally honest here: Living with diabetes leads to a litany of things that we could all do better. I have a list of things that I need to improve on – some days that list feels short, and on other days it feels like it’s a mile long. But over the last few months one thing in particular has stuck to the top of that list. It is something that goes back to the first weeks after I was diagnosed, way back in 1998.

I knew virtually nothing about diabetes at that point in my life. I had just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, handed a bag full of information and supplies, taught to give myself insulin shots and sent on my very confused way. During those first few weeks, I was constantly bombarded with questions and comments from well-meaning friends and family – and now that I look back, those words remind me of just how much misinformation is out there.

Should you really be eating that?

All you have is a touch of the sugar. Don’t eat sweets!  

You just need to lose weight.

This is what happens when you eat too much of that processed food!

Everybody in my family had it. It’s nothing to worry about.

It’s all about that white flour. Stop eating that and you’ll be fine.

Diabetes is a delicate state…maybe we shouldn’t go walking today?

And on and on and on…

I had great faith in the literature that my doctor handed over. I believed in scientific studies, proven facts about what causes diabetes, and the fact that I could still have dessert, as long as I planned for it. But trying to explain those things to my family and friends, especially when I was still so new to it all myself, led me to simply smile and say something trite to end the conversation and move on to the next subject.

One thing to improve: becoming a diabetes advocate

Over these last several years, I have written quite a bit about diabetes. I have a filing cabinet full of research. I have spoken to my doctor at length about things I couldn’t figure out, interviewed diabetes advocates and experts, and immersed myself in literature to a point where I sometimes dream about it. I don’t know all the answers, but I know much more than I did fourteen years ago.

But when I get one of those well-meaning questions – or the infuriating comment that I just have "too much sugar" and need to eat better – I tend to end the conversation. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to explain myself. I don’t want to get into a war of words over the myths.

Lately I think that the one thing I could do better – and should do better – is become more of an advocate for those of us who ride the merry-go-round of blood sugar checks and insulin shots. I should be more active in the diabetes community, more willing to share what I have learned, and more willing to go head-to-head with those myths that drive us all a little crazy.

So this year, that’s one thing I am going to improve. I’m going to do my part. Together, we can make a difference by slowly tearing down the misinformation and replacing it with the truth about diabetes.

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